The Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers, has purchased a controlling share of Counter Logic Gaming, CLG announced on Monday.
“In 2015, Madison Square Garden hosted the sold-out North American League of Legends Championship Series Summer Finals — a first for The World’s Most Famous Arena, and a sign that esports was ready to command sports’ biggest stage,” David O’Connor, president and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Company said in a press release. “Since then, as we have been actively exploring opportunities to enhance MSG’s portfolio of live experiences, we have been keenly interested in esports as a natural extension of our core business."
The Madison Square Garden Company is a sports and entertainment company that owns several sports teams and venues in the United States. In addition to the Knicks and the Rangers, the company also owns WNBA, NBA G League and AHL teams, as well as Madison Square Garden itself.
They also operate several theatres, including Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre. The company has previously hosted several esports events, including the 2015 NA LCS Summer Finals at Madison Square Garden and ESL One New York 2014 and 2015.
"When CLG won at Madison Square Garden it was a defining moment not only for our team, but also our sport,” CLG founder George "HotshotGG" Georgallidis said in a press release. “It’s still only just the beginning for esports. We can’t wait to bring our teams and players to more fans on the world’s greatest stage. We believe MSG, with its exceptional infrastructure, world-class resources and loyal fan bases, will bring us to the next level of growth and exposure, and ensure we continue to compete at the highest levels.”
CLG currently fields two League of Legends teams, three CS:GO teams, an Overwatch team and several Super Smash Bros. players. According to the press release, Hotshot will still run day-to-day operations for CLG's esports teams, though it is unclear exactly what title he will hold under the new corporate structure.
“As esports moves toward franchise league models similar to the NBA and NHL, we intend to leverage our knowledge and insight into the business of professional sports to play an active role in the development of this exciting industry,” Jordan Solomon, executive vice president of MSG Sports, said in the press release. “We have incredible respect for George and the championship culture he has built, and look forward to utilizing our expertise in marketing partnerships, live events, and media rights to make CLG the preeminent New York esports franchise poised to thrive not only on the business side, but also in competitive play.”
CLG is the latest of several endemic esports organizations to partner with traditional sports investors. NRG Esports was founded by part-owners of the Sacramento Kings, Misfits recently partnered with the Miami Heat and Team Dignitas were purchased by the Philadelphia 76ers last year.
The news also comes just a few days after the deadline for NA LCS franchising applications. When the franchising application process was announced, Riot stated that teams would have to pay $10 million to buy into the league.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.